Craghoppers Discovery Adventures Stretch Jacket Review

I’ve been wearing top-end Craghoppers jackets for a few years now, and I was delighted when they sent me the new Discovery Adventures Stretch jacket for my adventures in Liberia. Craghoppers have recently teamed up with the Discovery Channel to provide their camera teams with the right equipment for the job, no matter where in the world they may be, and in whatever conditions they may face. The technical-end of the Discovery Adventures range thus sits at the top of the Craghoppers tree, with practical features that help them stand out from the crowd.

 

Crag Jacket
Getting ready to go before Liberia! You can see the height of the side pockets here, which were a great help in the field. 

 

I’ve experienced tropical rain before, in Malaysia, but in Liberia it was something else. Short, sharp intense rain showers would regularly turn the roads into turbulent rivers, and it wasn’t surprising to discover that flooding is a regular problem in Kakata and across Liberia. On overcast days, I would pack my jacket into the bottom of my bag just in case a rogue shower would open up- as they occasionally did! The waterproofing on this jacket is exceptional, and it certainly didn’t struggle with some fairly ferocious rain. The coat also features a push-material, which should raise the hydrostatic head (waterproofing rating) even higher in practice. The heat in Liberia is pretty incredible during the day, and in Kakata at times it felt like it was too hot to work. The Discovery Adventures jacket has pretty good breathability, however, especially when compared to some older offerings, which meant that I wasn’t soaked on the inside of the jacket after a rain shower. Armpit ventilation zips are also on the jacket, though I always managed to forget to use them.

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Africa can be a pretty challenging environment for any outdoor gear, and so I was pleased that the jacket had tightly woven ripstop fabric, which helped to prevent any tears when I occasionally caught it on the corrugated tin buildings when passing through communities, or thorns in the bush! The pocket arrangement is in a similar vein to alpine climbing jackets, which means they two side pockets reach quite high up the chest. I found this quite useful when doing wildlife photography, as I could reach more easily to retrieve a lens cap, for example, when in an uncomfortable perch in a tree. This is a definite advantage over the more traditional pockets found in the older Oliver Pro jacket. The chest pocket was nicely sized, and it swallowed my GPS unit, phone and passport with no worries whatsoever. It also had a nice soft lining to keep them scratch-free.

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Not content with testing it in Liberia, I traveled to another climatic extreme a day after returning to the UK, experiencing the harshness of a Michigan winter. At times it was -25 Celsius in the day, and believe me when I tell you that walking around in those temperatures isn’t fun. I layered up with some fleeces and an Arcteryx down jacket and used my Discovery Stretch to throw off any snow, ice and freezing rain that came my way. Sure enough, my partner and I ended up in near-blizzard conditions on one occasion, but the jacket held up fine. I liked the fact that I could adjust the hood and neck to provide additional protection against the cold wind, and the sleeves were also easy to adjust around my gloves to ensure no heat was escaping. The only problem I have with this jacket is that they didn’t make an extra small, with the small being just a little bit too large for me. That’s a common problem though, no matter which brand of jacket I try!

I’ve used this jacket in two very different climatic extremes, it handled both of them very well indeed. I think this could be my number one outer shell for some time to come!

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Craghoppers Duffle Review

The past few years have seen a resurgence in the duffle bag for outdoor use, and now nearly all the major brands offer a duffle option at a variety of size and price ranges. Block colours and large, simple branding seems to be the trend at the moment, and the Craghoppers duffle range is no exception.

I remember working in the Falmouth Hawkshead store when these first came into stock, and they flew off the shelves, and we often struggled to restock them in time. The reasons were twofold- the Crag duffles were well-featured and versatile, and the styling of them was exceptional. On my various adventures around the world, I’ve trusted them enough to end up using the Craghoppers duffles in all kinds of situations, no matter the environment. After 2 years of usage, I’m in a good position to explore quite why I like these bags so much!

 

Duffle 2
The 90L can basically hold anything. Cricket gear, enormous Papayas, fuel drums…

 

My big blue Craghoppers 90L duffle is a pretty big bit of kit, and it’s seen some interesting times. I used it on the second Malaysia expedition to carry large amounts of kit into the jungle, including research equipment. For a while, I used it as a cricket bag, with it somehow managing to squeeze all my kit inside, which is pretty tardis-esque considering the voluminous amounts of unnecessary gear I like to carry. I then started using it as my hold-luggage bag, and after multiple trips to Liberia and the USA with it acting as such, it is still going strong. The strength of a duffle bag is in its versatility, and the Craghoppers offering is particularly uncomplicated, offering a main cavern with the option to add a compartment should you so desire. It means it is easy to load up with anything, and I’ve definitely put that to the test! In Liberia, I used the orange/red 70L duffle to transport fruit for a sports day across town, which included a truly enormous Papaya with no issues. It also has a nice mesh zipped pocket under the lid/flap of the duffle, which I filled with condoms to give away and other such things. It became a really useful tool out there, and I later gave it to my host family as a gift to help them carry things more easily from the market.

 

Crag Duffle 1
Our photographer Joshua Gray using the 70L duffle on a resupply run in Malaysia.. We had to carry them over by boat, and then used the big 90L to hold a fuel jerrycan. 

 

As with everything Craghoppers makes, the bags are very strong and hard-wearing, being made of a tough tarpaulin/canvas type construction with a reinforced bottom. My 90L duffle has really been put through some tough environments and situations, with neither the jungle in Malaysia nor Liberia especially suiting outdoor gear, yet it is still absolutely fine. It is starting to look a little grubby after so many adventures, but that’s nothing a good clean won’t sort! It is important to note that these bags aren’t sold as waterproof, although I haven’t had any issues in some pretty vicious rain storms. If it fell in the river or something though, I’m pretty sure it would get wet inside, mind (but that is what dry bags are for, right)! Another plus point for these bags, and a key selling point for me, is that they roll up into a much smaller mesh bag. I had to ride motorbikes a lot on a daily basis in Liberia, and so I couldn’t really squeeze a 90L duffle on my back, yet I could have one rolled up into my backpack with all my other kit if I needed, which was very useful!

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I’m a big fan of these duffle bags, and I wholeheartedly recommend them if you are in the market for one, especially given the reasonable pricing compared to other brands. If you are sneaky and wait until a sale, you might even pick-up a bargain! If you intend to use it as travel luggage, however, Craghoppers has a range of wheeled duffles made with the same materials that might be better suited. Trust me, lugging 20kg through an airport without wheels isn’t fun! The 120L version can literally fit a small human inside, too…

 

Crag Bag
I wasn’t joking! 

 

Craghoppers Nosilife Pro Shirt Review

Prior the expedition to Malaysia this summer, Craghoppers very generously supplied the entire FxPedition Perhentian Islands team with clothing and equipment suitable for the jungle. This is the first post in a series of Craghoppers product reviews, detailing how the products coped with the toughest environment in the world- the jungle! Photographs for this post were provided by the wonderfully talented Joshua Gray (https://500px.com/joshuagray).

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What makes this field shirt different from its competitors is the stretch material it is made from, hence the ‘Pro’ moniker. It’s an incredibly comfortable fit, being snug fitting but not at all too tight. It’s a modern cut, compared to the shirts of old, but this is my preferred style in the field anyway. I don’t want any snags in the jungle! The stretch material was a revelation when scaling rocks and steep slopes in the rainforest, facilitating movement where other materials would have been far more restrictive.

Despite being worn nearly every day over 6 weeks in that environment, the shirt has fared incredibly well. Given the amount of thorns and other spiky things I invariably managed to impale myself on, I find it impressive that I can’t find any pulls on the fabric, despite a proper search. There are no rips, no tears- it’s in pretty much perfect condition, to the extent that I’m able to wear it as work uniform, which is a big win from me!

 

shirt-r-1
Tough terrain in the jungle! Being a little taller would certainly help.

 

As the top-end Craghoppers shirt, it has all manner of technologies and features packed into it, many of which were useful in the field. The glasses wipe built into the seam was unexpectedly useful when I managed to dunk my camera in the mud, and it’s a really useful feature for any photographers out there who, like me, constantly lose their lens cleaning cloths. The Nosilife mosquito repellency did better than expected, certainly making a difference for me personally. A combination of deet & nosilife kept me well protected even in the worst clouds of mossies, though of course there’s always one mosquito with near-Special Forces levels of stealth. I actually wore it to bed a few times, after my hips were massacred in the night- lifesaver!

The heat and sunlight on the islands was intense, regularly reaching in excess of 36 degrees celsius, though it felt more like 45 in the humidity according to the forecast! The shirts feature solar shield tech, and I certainly didn’t get burned once while wearing them. Whilst they look substantial, they are actually incredibly thin and well-ventilated, with special mesh patches under the arms. I had no qualms wearing them in the jungle, nor in the desert in the Sierra Nevada, USA a few weeks later!

Verdict

I’m very hard on my kit, but these very lightweight shirts survived both the Malaysian jungle and arid California with ease. The mosquito repellency and solar protection were valuable features in a difficult environment, and the fit was perfect for me. Incredibly comfortable and very smart looking despite being a feature-packed, functional field shirt, this shirt truly lives up to it’s ‘Pro’ title. At this price point, you will struggle to find a product that even comes close.

5-star

PS. I’ve used the Craghoppers Nosilife ‘Trek’ shirt on previous expeditions, but for me the Nosilife Pro is worth the upgrade for the better comfort it provides.